Good training, better prospects, best employees
With a constant barrage of new workplace regulations and the need for employees to progress to higher levels, SHEQ MANAGEMENT finds out why it is important for every company to invest in good skills training programmes
While there are numerous skills and training programmes offered in South Africa, it is important to ensure that the training provided is of the best quality. Companies need to take care when sourcing a training provider as there are many unrecognised institutions offering unaccredited qualifications.
In 2016, the Department of Higher Education and Training released a list of occupations in high demand. The purpose of the list was to help plan processes of the Department of Higher Education and Training with respect to the post-school education and training system; particularly in relation to enrolment planning, resource allocations, career advice and development of qualifications.
Some of the occupations in high demand are for skilled employees at management level. A possible reason for such shortages could be that individuals who are semi-skilled, or who have a low level of skills, are enrolled into positions with a belief that they will acquire their skills and knowledge while on duty, but during their career they do not obtain any recognised form of skills training.
A report by the World Economic Forum, entitled Matching Skills and Labour Market Needs, states that the notion that new employees will acquire all the job skills required during the course of their career is unrealistic. The report further notes that the employers need to be actively involved in ownership of skills, and should help employees to develop and maintain their skills by fully utilising them.
During his address at the National Skills Conference, Deputy President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa stressed the need for more channels for skills development, saying: “If the post-school system is to serve the country well, we need more places and different avenues for people to learn.”
Several institutions, such as the Institute of People Development (IPD), offer occupationally directed and management programmes and qualifications (some of which recognise prior learning), as well as customised programmes that are suited specifically to the individual needs of their clients.
“The programmes are developed to increase the competence of the learners within their work environment, which makes them more engaged and productive,” says Gizelle McIntyre, director at IPD.
McIntyre explains that difficulties encountered by employees, who may lack in skills required in the workplace, include feelings of incompetence and low self-confidence. “If an employee wishes to move to another environment, without the skills, or the papers to prove they have them, they are pretty much stuck. Having an unskilled workforce also has a huge impact on the ability of a company to reach its strategic goals,” she adds.
Group manager for training and certification at Pinnacle OSH, Joep Joubert, notes that
the consequence of lack of skills and knowledge at management level is critical as managers have the power to change the conditions in the workplace.
The lack of management skills can lead to unsafe practices and workplaces and workers not being provided with the necessary personal protective equipment, all of which could negatively impact the workforce.
Joubert explains the difficulty found within the occupational safety and health (OSH) discipline when it comes to skills and training: “There are a number of training programmes (presented by accredited or non-accredited providers), which are not accredited, for whatever reason. It often happens that a whole range of courses presented by an accredited provider, do not have accreditation.
“The onus is on the employer to ensure that the course will satisfy the company’s workplace skills plan and the requirements of the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA).
“Training that is customised for a specific client is generally not accredited, although, if it still covers all the outcomes and is managed correctly, may retain its accreditation. Employers sometimes tend towards non-accredited training, because it takes less time, as the accreditation requirements do not have to be met. The danger is that the training could be inferior, as it is often rushed and no practical work is done to cement the theory that has been presented.”
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conducted a survey of adult skills in 2013, which indicated that underutilisation of skills implies lower labour productivity, and that employers in many countries are not making the most of their workers’ information-processing skills. This includes reading, numeracy, information technology and problem-solving.
OECD drew an example from the low use of reading and numeracy at workplaces in Japan, which ranks highest among countries for adult proficiency in literacy and numeracy. On the other hand, employers in the United Kingdom and the United States use their workers’ skills rather efficiently, despite their adult populations having below-average proficiency in literacy and numeracy. Furthermore, both of these countries have significantly higher labour productivity than Japan.
When investing in skills and training programmes, it is vital for companies to find relevant institutions that offer the best skills and training to suit the specific workplace requirements. Employers should also create an environment where learning takes place continuously, in order to improve learning and skills development in the workplace.
Furthermore, individuals who are responsible for OHS in a workplace should have sufficient skills to help ensure best practice in terms of health and safety.
Skills in the oil and gas sector
The adherence to strict safety standards, having the latest technology and skilled personnel available, as well as the relevant certification, has stood access specialists Skyriders in good stead in tackling major projects in the oil, gas and petrochemical industries in South Africa.
Skyriders has certification in ISO 9001, OSHAS 18001:2007 and ISO 14001 – all of which are mandatory in the sector. In addition, major petrochemical companies will conduct their thorough audit of safety procedures and processes at Skyriders before awarding any contracts.
“The fact that we have been involved with some major projects in this sector is a testament to the high standards we maintain in terms of health, safety, and environmental awareness,” says Mike Zinn, marketing manager at Skyriders.
Apart from the standard risks associated with working at heights and with oil and gas, the petrochemical industry is a particularly hazardous environment, due to potentially toxic and explosive materials. This means that all equipment brought to the site has to be intrinsically safe.
Services rendered by Skyriders range from the installation of new walkways and hand railings to deluge fire-suppression systems, high-pressure water-jet cleaning and general inspection services.
A recent project undertaken by Skyriders involved a company that was contracted to undertake the specialist maintenance work itself, which meant careful interfacing and planning. “We were requested to provide a fall-arrest solution to allow the appointed contractor to carry out the necessary work safely, in addition to having a team on standby for any rescue situations,” says Zinn.
“Skyriders works in close collaboration with its oil, gas and petrochemical customers to ensure that the highest standards in health, safety and environment awareness are maintained at all times,” Zinn concludes.